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Season 1 - Episode 3

Yoga and the Medistate

60 min - Talk


We practice steadiness in Yoga so that throughout the fluctuations of life we return to that steadiness, re-membering our innate capacity for unity and our eternal essence.  James focuses today’s inspiring talk on Yoga and the “medistate”, our natural state of balance and centeredness, to which we strive to return throughout life. James discusses pulsation and cycling and pairs of opposites, which are challenges to maintaining our medistate, and how the Yoga Sutras indicate that an asana practice helps us prepare and center ourselves for our day, like the members of an orchestra tuning their instruments in preparation for a concert.
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Mar 08, 2021
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Hello. Namaskar. I'm James. I'm very pleased to be welcoming you to the second session in the first season of Yoga Now on Yoga Anytime. So I'm here in the northeast of England in a small town actually where the town where I spent a lot of my youth where I grew up and went to school between the ancient city of York and Scarborough on the coast and I know there are people joining from the west coast of the US or the people in the UK so good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Hope this finds you well and thank you for tuning in and joining me here today on Yoga Now. So last week we began and it's always good to begin and we mentioned last week that in yoga yoga is always very practical and it recognises that really everything we ever do is a kind of training. We're never not in practice because the things that we do a lot we tend to get good at them and so in yoga there's always the idea let's practice how we want to be let's practice how we want to feel no need to wait practice having the type of experience I would like to experience now so as best as I possibly can invite myself into a state of yoga a state which today we will call many things including the medistate the state of being in the medi place the state of the centre place of balance and yoga being practical also recognises that they sometimes say in India I think I said this last week the first step is half the journey and so it's important to start as we mean to go on because if we do that there'll be less course correction down the line now one of my friends who I think has tuned in he has shared a beautiful quotation last time we spoke and he said just a small manoeuvre on the steering wheel can make a big difference down the line and this is so true and yoga practice also encourages us to not get carried away but if we notice we've come out of balance we've come away from the centre then steadily gently patiently we can gently course correct we can invite ourselves back towards the centre but there are a couple of things that I would have liked to do last week but I didn't manage to get to them that I always like to do at the beginning of any type of course or any type of shared endeavour so it would be lovely to be able to see you all but here I am in England and I'm very very grateful for the people who are in California who are facilitating this so we're broadcasting live simultaneously from the north of England and the southwest of the United States which is quite a miracle but I'm not able to see you all but if we were in the same room I would like to say hello and I'd probably ask your names this is what I normally do when I teach in person so I'm James and we'd introduce ourselves and then perhaps somebody would ask somebody else where are you from this is a pretty common question when people meet where are you from now obviously there's more than one way to answer this question more than one accurate valid truthful or honest way to answer the question where are you from sometimes people say things like I'm from the stars but the common way or the most conventional way is to say a geographical location so I could say for example well I came onto my mother's womb in a town called Beverly in the east riding of Yorkshire in the country that is commonly known as England or the United Kingdom and I would not be telling a lie this is a valid statement and I know for example like Angelina's here from Glasgow and Alanis here from Ojai we could say a geographical place and that is a valid answer but perhaps there is an even more valid way to answer this question where are you from it is completely truthful to say a geographical place but maybe we could also give an answer that is true with a capital T true in the sense that it's always true perennially true and if I give that type of answer what I recognise is that the same thing that's true for me is true for you and him and her and all of them too so where am I from where did I come from well I came out of my mother's womb just like you we all come from the womb and from a certain perspective we all exist in the womb of mother nature or the womb of life or the circle of existence and I came out of a womb and as I emerged from the womb something very very significant happened when we entered the breathing world from that place that we began inside our mother's womb we did something very very significant we actually we could say we became initiated into the way of spiritual warriorhood we became initiated into the path and practice of yoga because yoga is all about looking in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking it's about thinking in ways that stretch beyond our habitual thought patterns so we came from the womb now cast your minds back if you like I invite you to close your eyes now and as you're sitting down or if you're standing maybe if you have the chance obviously if you're driving or you're involved in a complex task do what you need to do to be safe but close your eyes if you if that's a valid option and cast your awareness back what was it like back then when you began to become in your mother's womb how was it in there oh yeah it was very cozy very agreeable temperature I'm used to I have been used I'm 43 years old and this last winter is the first winter this century that I have spent the whole of it at a latitude like this one in the north of England I have typically I used to live in Thailand and I've spent a lot of time and many winters in India and also saw a couple of other times in other tropical places but back in the womb how was the temperature oh just utterly cozy all the time and how was my how are my basic needs met well constant steady food supply all my nutritional needs on tap taken care of given to me even before I need to ask for it how lovely was that and in the womb not Tony was it a very agreeable temperature with momma's heart the steady accompaniment to our day-to-day experience not only do we have a constant food supply but it was all that we had ever known and so I think we can say that the womb is pretty much an archetypical comfort zone but there came a time even though it was all we'd ever known even though it was a pretty cushy deal we didn't have to make a lot of effort everything was being provided somewhere from somewhere deep inside us even back then there was this inkling that there must be something more than this and then what did we do we did something truly truly heroic truly courageous because from that place of relative comfort yes of course it was getting a little bit confined a little bit tight a little bit constricted but we did something truly heroic because we forced ourselves into a place of much greater constriction into the birth canal and then we worked our way through that to then emerge into the vast unknown previously unknown of the breathing world and we emerge from the womb what's the first thing that we did we took a breath in we inhaled inspiration and then what was the next thing we did we took a breath out expiration and in the vast vast vast majority of cases the breath out was accompanied by sound and so we might say that we were initiated into the realm of nature nature meaning that which is born so nut we can see the latin root of this english word nut means that which is born like you know our mother before we were grown in her womb or when she was grown in her womb maybe she did a yoga class she went to the anti-natal or the pre-natal yoga class and then after we had emerged into the breathing world she might have gone to the post-natal yoga class perhaps but we meanwhile we were getting to grips with this realm of nature which is a realm of pulsation of expansion and contraction of inhale and exhale and one day when it comes to that time that we will die what will be the last thing we do we will exhale we will expire and in between all of life will be pulsation it will be a breath cycle it will be heartbeats and this is life it's pulsation and it cycles and if you like i'd invite you to do this with me so one hand maybe like the left hand you can do the pulsations expansion contraction and the other hand you can do cycling and when we do this and then if that's too easy then switch hands so the other one can cycle and the other one can pulsate and now i've never done this never seen myself doing on the screen the same time as i'm talking that almost threw me off there but pulsation and cycling these are really two ways of describing the same phenomenon of worldly existence and so this world that we experience in we could say it's a realm of duality expansion and contraction up and down so coming back to the cycling and the pulsating where's the expansion we've got the up cycle and when the contract we've got the down cycle this is the realm of duality hot cold up down day night summer winter all these different pairs of opposites so from a certain perspective we can say that nature is a realm of duality because we do experience likes and dislikes preference things that we prefer we experience expansion we experience contraction we experience joy and sorrow gain and loss these are all completely natural normal parts of the human experience however maybe we can get even truer than saying that we came from our mother's womb maybe we can get to something that's even more perennially valid than that because before we became in the womb what happened our mother and father they came together and they joined it might not have been for so long but they came together and when that heroic sperm and that fateful egg when they joined what then happened a fusion that begat that from that fusion became a single unified cell in our mother's womb initially for one cell and that was the first cell that would go on to become us in all our variegation and asymmetry and diversity but in that first moment of inception and becoming we were a single cell and some of my scientist friends tell me that that first unified cell that was the beginning of each of us when we started to become inside our mother's womb it wasn't just any old cell it was actually the prototypic heart cell once it started to become us that initial cell it multiplied and as it multiplied it multiplied into a realm into a manifest form of asymmetry and diversity and variegation and that's how we are now yeah if I look at myself I'm not the same front to back left to right and it's the same for all of us and we exist in this realm of so much variegated wonder beauty and diversity however is it also not true yes I came out of the womb in a geographical location but going back deeper subtler I come from the womb and we could also say that we are children not just of our biological human birth mother but we are children of the earth because if we were not living on this amazing planet mother earth how would we have become at all we might also say that we are children of father-son because without that light of consciousness excuse me I'm getting ahead of myself so the sun in the yogic method is often used as a symbolic representation of the light of consciousness but here we are on the earth and without the light of the sun the warmth of the sun what life would we know or have maybe not at all so I think it's also pretty true pretty valid to say I'm a child of the earth I'm a child of the sun as well as being a child of my parents and my mother but going back deeper than that we could say that we come from unity because that's where we started from from that unified cell and so for me the idea that really deep in the heart of every cell we know what unity feels like this idea resonates with me now one way that yoga is described is as remembering sometimes people talk about yoga as self-realization we don't have to realize anything we are not it's just about recognizing who we really are remembering our true essence the source of infinite consciousness from which we became from which we sprang from which we emerged but even at the more micro level relative to our own lifespan when we started to become in the womb we started from unity and so I find it striking last week I mentioned a Sanskrit subahshita a wise saying a proverb that began manasiya kam and this proverb this wise saying describes something that I think almost all human beings can recognize it says manasiya kam vichasya kam karaman yikam mahat manam manasiya nyat vichasya nyat karaman yanyat dharat manam so these words they say manasiya kam manas means the realm of our awareness our thoughts our mind vacha is the realm of speech and expression and karma the realm of action so it says the first line one whose thought speech and action are one such a person is mahatmana is a great soul now is it true that when you feel your thought your word your action all aligned it feels kind of great yeah and we do feel expansive but the second line manasiya nyat vichasya nyat karaman yanyat dharat manam however somebody whose mind is in one place whose words are saying something else and whose actions are doing something else again how does such a person feel dharatmana that is a soul in torment is this true in my own experience I can only say yes it is when I feel torn and split like part of me is pulling me in one direction another part of me is wanting to be somewhere else it doesn't feel good yeah I don't want to feel like that but now and again I manage to have these moments where it's like all of me is here mind speech and action all aligned and how does that feel ah pick your adjective sorry if we're in the same room I would ask you to give me some adjectives but I would imagine that the adjectives that will be describing that feeling of thought word indeed all lined up all in a state of congruence and in group and integration ah wonderful fantastic great expansive yes but also when we bring ourselves into that joined up integrated congruent cohesive state not only does it feel mahat does it feel expansive and great is it not also true that when we get to those moments we find ourselves feeling within them a sense of great ease and familiarity when we feel torn and split it doesn't quite feel right that pop song yeah nothing's right I'm torn but on the other hand everything's right I'm whole when I can bring myself into togetherness it feels right it feels good and it feels not at all strange it doesn't feel foreign or alien rather it's more like ah it feels like I've come home so maybe you've experienced this I know in recent times many people have not had the chance to travel so much but maybe you've been out all day and you've been doing some work or you've been moving around and then you come home you can just relax in that sanctuary and my experience is that when many other people corroborate this is that if we can invite ourselves into a state what we can call yoga of togetherness we can make ourselves a joined up integrated whole human being our mind our speech and our action are all unified ah it doesn't just it just feels so lovely but it also feels like home so the idea in yoga we do not have to become anything that we are not rather it's about just recognising and remembering our innate capacity for unity and togetherness however yoga recognises while we do have this innate capacity for unity we exist in the realm of nature and in the realm of nature what can we be sure of we mentioned already nature is thou which is born what do you know about everything that is born it's going to die and in between those two great changes from entering life at birth and exiting life at death one of the very few things we can guarantee in between those two great changes is change constant change and so yoga tells us Krishna says this very clearly in the Bhagavad Gita right at the beginning he says human being when you are born when you have come out of a womb when you are the child of a mother it is absolutely natural normal guarantee that you will experience Mishra karma you will experience mixed action you experience mixed type of experience you'll experience these things that are often referred to in the Indian system as pairs of opposites hot cold pleasure pain and when we encounter hot cold pleasure pain in a yogic text we can understand it doesn't just mean those two pairs of opposites but hot cold pleasure pain stands for all of those different pairs of opposites like gain and loss like joy and sorrow and all the rest of them like tension relaxation all these things these pairs of opposites what do we know about them they come and they go hot cold pleasure pain up down day night summer winter this too shall pass none of that is eternal it's always cycling pulsating changing and so Krishna the teacher in the Bhagavad Gita says human being when you have this amazing opportunity of a human birth your task your challenge your opportunity can you be steady amidst all of this coming and going remember this too shall pass everything is always changing so as far as is possible can we practically avoid getting overly attached to the things that come and go and can we tune in to that subtle a deeper part of ourselves that constant part of ourselves that thing that's been there since the beginning that thing that is somehow present and vitalizing and animating all of ourselves the cells that are constantly changing what is it what is that life force what is that witness consciousness that's underlying enabling it all can I tune into that and let myself think speak act connected to that connected to the deep intuitive wisdom of the voice and the pilot guiding light of my conscience so Krishna Gita says when you're a human being change is inevitable and it's quite normal to get identified with the things that change because this very bodily vehicle that we experience through with all its amazing instrumental sense powers these are also made of the changing stuff of nature so it's quite normal to become identified with change and limitation but remember human being there is a part of you that is beyond all the change that is inviolable untouchable that can never be destroyed and so Krishna Bhagavad Gita says that's why you need to in the language of the Gita the teaching is set on a battlefield says that's why you need to fight that's why you need to make that resolute engaged effort to foster steadiness and clarity of awareness because if you can come to that clarity of awareness if you can maintain that steadiness through difficult times through lovely times through the hot cold pleasure pain all the other dance of this pairs of opposites if you can maintain that steadiness this is the promise of yoga the promise of Krishna Bhagavad Gita then human being you will unveil you will recognize you will remember your innate capacity to actually savor relish and become completely attuned to and at one with the deathless essence that is your very soul your source your essence and so this is where we've come from and the yoga teachings tell us this is where we are bound this is where we are directed to sooner or later we will remember who we really are however yoga says well if you'd like to expedite that process you can do something about it so there's this beautiful teaching in the yoga tradition that everybody is practicing whether we realize it or not because all of our experiences are teaching us about balance and imbalance even we're not paying attention still slowly slowly the accrued influences and impacts of our experience they do teach us and yoga Shastra the encoded time-tested teachings of yoga say when you're a human being this is an amazing opportunity because when you're a human being you have this capacity for self-reflexive awareness we can notice ourselves we can feel ourselves we can witness ourselves and we can learn a lot from our experience and if we can harness and cultivate this steady presence then we can actually expedite that recovery that recognition that remembering of all that we really are remembering all that we really are is sometimes rather intimidating because we have more than likely got used to a sense of self-identity that is relatively speaking limited and we identify perhaps with our name our nationality our job our relationships our ideas our beliefs all these types of things and all of those identifications are things that come and go they're different from that deathless inviolable essence and so as we start to tune in more and more to the underlying animating consciousness it means we have to kind of loosen our grip on our previously established idea of who we are and what we are we have to open ourselves for something richer and vaster and what does that mean it means going from the known the familiar comfort zone into the unknown and this can be very intimidating even if the reality that we know is characterized by a significant degree of pain and suffering if we have been used to that pain and suffering for years decades it becomes the familiar known comfort zone and so to break out of it can be quite challenging this is why in yoga it is emphasized again and again you need to be a hero and this is why one of the reasons why the archetype of the warrior features so significantly in the old tradition but never fear you are already initiated because where did we come from we emerged from that comfort zone we were in the womb and it was all familiar that little microcosmic world and then we did this amazing thing and we emerged into this realm of so much diversity so much constant change we've already made that leap and what do we know there's an old proverb one of my friends used to have this on her fridge it said leap and the net will appear when we make a leap that is based on the impulse of our deep intuition and conscience often we find yes a support structure does emerge if however we shrink back when our conscience is urging us on that tends to not work out so well so can we muster that courageous valor to keep steadily exploring beyond the confines of our perhaps limiting ideas into a vast realm in which we can recognize more of who we really are what we're already made of and our deathless essence so eventually if we were to meet we wouldn't need to ask each other where we were from because we would recognize instantly yes we are all from unity not because we'd read it in a book or heard it on a talk but because it's our own visceral experience but along the way yoga says well let's invite that state of togetherness let's invite that state of balance and integration so we come from unity and as a human being with self-reflexive awareness we have the capacity and the possibility to invite ourselves into a more unified way of being what this necessitates courage it also necessitates an attitude of openness if yoga means unity then the only genuine unity is inclusive we cannot exclude part of ourselves and expect to feel well for any significant period of time and yoga teaches us the whole Indian system reminds us microcosm and macrocosm similarly in the bigger picture none of us can really really thrive if others of us are in a terrible state of suffering so we have to look after the whole and this is what yoga teaches us to do at the cell deep visceral level of our own embodied experience this is one of the reasons why I feel that yoga practice can be so healing for our species and our planet when we start to really invite balance wholeness integration here in the realm of our own embodied conscious experience we start to recognise I cannot thrive at the expense of part of myself and so the ongoing diligent practice of cultivating steadiness does invite us into a cell deep recognition that I can't favour one part of myself and leave something else out and what this actually necessitates in practice is that I have to loosen my grip on being able to perhaps perform a certain way in some domain of my life I have to actually invite everything into a greater harmony a greater symbiosis I have to be a little bit more humble about my expectations of myself and yet at the same time if I invite that type of attitude and that type of experience a wonderful thing happens it is its own reward because when I do invite all parts of myself to cohere and support each other then I have the visceral experience that yes indeed it is true when all the parts come together and function as a whole wow it is so much greater than when all those parts are just working independent of each other when I bring myself into collective oneness wow it's its own reward it's a self-validating practice and so one way that this is described in the yoga teachings is I can't remember if I mentioned this last week is that I want to be a putter I want to be like a leaf so in the Indian system leaves are used to fashion drinking vessels and plates and if I want to receive the teaching just like if I want to receive the beautiful fresh coconut water in my cup that's fashioned from leaves I need to make sure I have an attitude of openness and the other thing I'd like to say about the leaves what else does a leaf do the leaf it grows out into the unknown so in yoga they say be a patra be a leaf what do they mean make yourself a vessel that has space and room to receive and welcome and contemplate new possibilities take care not to meet life from an attitude that basically puts up a barrier to new insights with the idea I know I've got it all worked out yes I'm the lord and master of the universe hubris brings nemesis I don't know any situation history where humans have gone into this extreme hubris and escaped nemesis and so I do feel some concern about some of the patterns of human behavior that I can witness in the world but when I witness in the world was it telling me about what's going on here am I also perhaps getting in my own way am I also not leaving as much space as I could for new insights to dawn could I be more like a leaf how does the leaf grow it's connected to the root system and so yoga asks us to be open but also to be stable and grounded so as we explore with the spirit of inquiry with the spirit of openness can we also take care to stay grounded and steady now I've mentioned the idea of yoga is unity yoga is integration yoga is balance so there's a couple of other ideas I'd like to mention yoga is also as balance reconciling these apparent pairs of opposites so in the show description I think it was mentioned I was going to talk about yoga as the medistate that state in which the seeming pairs of opposites balance and support each other so I know on yoga anytime and I know that in the live show Monday to Thursday you can join an Arsena class and Arsena is one of the yoga one of the realms of yoga one of the yoga techniques one of the approaches to yoga that in the world today is one of the most prevalent ways people encounter the rich realm of yoga and yoga practice now Arsena literally means seat you can see the influence of Sanskrit coming through to English here the Arsena and it is Arsena so sometimes so in Sanskrit we have the vowel sound and we have the vowel sound Ar so Arsena so the first one is the long R and when we pronounce the R we lower the jaw so R and this R sound is a very very important sound in Sanskrit I just invite you to make this sound with me now the R sound is a lovely diagnostic when we make that R it can resonate through all the chambers of our being and we can get a feeling of how connected and open all the channels of communication in my body are we can get a feeling of how open my voice is and how open my body is just from making that R sound and if I practice the R sound I can invite more openness and more connectivity and integration so it's a very simple yoga practice is to sound these vowel sounds in Sanskrit and maybe on another occasion we can look at that in more detail but yoga Arsena enjoy that R Arsena and R has that feeling of R coming home yeah and yoga Arsena is described and defined most beautifully in a jaw-droppingly brilliantly concise fashion by Maharishi Patanjali in the yoga sutra now I have heard some absolutely villainous ridiculous things said about the yoga sutra over the years and one thing that I have heard said which I find is not really true is that oh Patanjali says so little about Arsena in the yoga sutra and the reason people say this there's a good reason people say this is that Patanjali just devotes three sutras to Arsena first one sthira sukham asanam seven syllables then he says prayat na shaitil yanan te samma patipyam 13 syllables this is tatodvann va na pikattuha so another eight syllables so 28 syllables it's not a lot but this is Maharishi Patanjali and this is the yoga sutra and the sutras sutra means stitch it also means thread but every stitch it's like on my shirt I don't imagine that you'll be able to see but I can see wow the stitches that are holding the hem of this shirt they're really tiny but relatively speaking the tiny stitch holds a vast body of fabric and so it is with these sutras that Patanjali uses in the yoga sutra to define yoga asana it's so beautiful and so instructive let's just take those first sthira sukham asanam those first seven syllables so Patanjali defines yoga asana as sthira and sukham the asana which is the yoga asana is at once sthira maybe say that word with me sthira and sukham sukham sthira sukham asanam sthira sukham asanam so the asana of yoga the seat of yoga the seat of awareness the seat of yogic awareness is at once sthira which means steady and sukham which means easeful but let's look more closely at the word sukham kham means space the space in which we exist and in the Indian system the great research scientists of the yoga tradition they recognized many many millennia ago that the space in which we exist is not empty but contains sound and vibration and so the prefix su means good or agreeable so sukham means literally good space nice space great space agreeable space excellent space fantastic space a space in which there is a good vibration sthira sukham asanam yoga asana is a space a seat of awareness a state of awareness in which there are steady good vibrations sustainable good vibrations would you like to live in a space of sustainable good vibrations I don't want to be presumptuous but I feel confident to say that everybody says yeah I would like to live in a state of sustainable good vibrations of sustainable harmony so potentially seven syllable definition of yoga asana is really one of these amazing sutras in which he gives so much so much instruction about how to cultivate this medistate this state of being balanced because think about sthira sukham asanam at first glance if we see a translation yoga asana is steady and easy so sukham as well as being literally meaning good space it can be translated as easy relaxed agreeable things like this so if we take for example sthira and sukham what do we find it's a little bit like those pairs of opposites we spoke about earlier sthira so I invite you now make yourself super sthira so sthira that if by a miracle of not technology but yogic superpowers or siddhis which I'm afraid I'm not in possession of I am a yoga practitioner student not a master yogin a yogin or yogi being one who is established in yoga but imagine a great yogic siddha could jump through your screen and then test your steadiness they're going to push against you very very firmly so you're going to make yourself so sthira that you're rooted super deep you connect down to the very centre of the earth and you feel super steady so if seven other like a whole rugby team were to come and try and push you you won't move get yourself super sthira like that go on do it now if you make yourself super sthira like that what's going to happen before very long likely if you make yourself suit that you're gonna get kind of tense and then what's gonna happen after a while you'll start to shake so what's happened to steadiness it's gone out of the window I'm shaking and then what's gonna happen I'm gonna collapse but how will I collapse I'm gonna kind of collapse into the opposite of steadiness it's complete lassitude like complete relaxation but is this really easy is this really relaxed this is not a particularly pleasant position for my I can already feel for my left shoulder if I stay here for very long what's going to happen it's going to I'll kind of congeal and get kind of stiff and then just moving will be difficult yeah so what does this tell us steadiness and easefulness are not really they're certainly not enemies they can seem like opposites but actually these pairs of opposites are waiting to be brought into a state of dynamic equilibrium yoga is asking us human being you're going to experience all these pairs of opposites can you bring them into togetherness can you make the seat of your awareness one that includes all these different things that come and go and whirl and cycle and pulsate and expand and contract and can you bring them into a state of dynamic equilibrium can you marry steadiness and easefulness so steadiness and easefulness come together and they do a dance together and as they dance together they start to realize that in order to dance together we have to really feel each other we have to be receptive alert open and attentive to each other and as this dance goes on steeda and suka steadiness and easefulness they realize mmm life is richer together take one away it's not so steady it's not so easy bring them into mutually supportive dynamic equilibrium ah yes ah this feels like home this is where I'd like to live and so yoga works with the reality of human nature yes it can be easy to get caught and trapped and attached to a comfort zone of disintegration of limited ideas and false ceilings on our ideas of reality and who we really are but with diligent patient heartful practice we can actually invite ourselves into the embodied lived experience of steeda suka masanam of a seat of awareness in which we enjoy the way that the different forces that we are bound to experience in life can actually support each other and so we can invite ourselves into that more balanced grounded state of yoga asana so asana yes it can be used to refer to all of these various and different styles of beautiful practice that work with the expansions and contractions of these different energetic systems within our own bodies and we can work with them to cultivate greater balance greater fluidity greater ease of communication through all the different parts of our being but all those techniques ultimately they are aiming towards a state of sustainable good vibrations in which the whole system is able to be more harmonious and so ultimately we could say all yoga techniques are really intended to help us cultivate the medistate and meditation is always has been the foundational basic yogic practice what does it mean to meditate so one way I understand is to cultivate this medistate cultivate this state of being centered balanced joined up connected gathered together whole and yoga is very practical so if for example I have the experience oh my manas is in one place my thoughts are over here my words are saying something else and I'm doing something different again it doesn't feel good I don't like feeling scattered and spread thin and pulled in different directions it doesn't feel quite authentic or congruent no no no I'd much rather be in a joined up balanced state what can I do about it so yoga says well life is the arena of yoga practice but what do we know about life constant pairs of opposites constant up down so many different things flooding into the realm of our awareness this we can be sure of this we can almost guarantee this we could guarantee thousands of years ago when there were far fewer human beings on the planet when we were not being bombarded with information misinformation disinformation and all the rest of it it there was still so much going on because nature is a realm of variegated beguiling enchanting wonder so it's very easy as a human being to oh yeah my awareness is zipping about all over the place so what to do what happens okay James mind of James be still let me see who I really am what will mind do it's unlikely to follow that order for very long so yoga is very practical about it if I want to come to that med estate of being centered and balanced let's be practical let's give my mind and all the powers of my body and my senses and my awareness let's give them something to gather around something too orient towards in Sanskrit this is known as an alambana like a substrat a support something they can use as a support to invite them into that gathered integrated balanced state if we think of our bodily vehicle as an orchestra after all this bodily vehicle is endowed with these amazing instruments these instrumental powers of our senses and our capacity for speech our manual capacities to pick things up and put things down our movement capacities to move in so many different ways our digestive assimilative excretory capacities our creative recreative procreative capacities amazing instrumental powers we have so if we think of this as an orchestra I don't know if any of you have ever played in an orchestra or been to see an orchestra now I remember one time I was in Prague the beautiful capital of Bohemia and I went to see a performance in the spring festival there and one of my friends had secured a couple of tickets and actually was on the front row and the ticket price was very low but it was this amazing orchestra and literally at the end of every at the end of the performance it was like the audience were just in ecstasy and people wanted to hug the people that been sitting next to us so beautiful an amazing orchestra but what did that orchestra do before they played they spent a good few minutes tuning up they played three movements that night in between the first and second the second the third they tuned up again it's normal yeah it's even if you're a master musician your instrument can come out of tune and so they tune in to a particular note yoga says how many strings does this instrument have so many and so let's be practical and pragmatic about it at the beginning of the day take a few moments to cultivate and invite the medistate invite ourselves into a place of balance and cohesion of steadiness and easefulness create that feeling of good vibrations steady good vibrations so as we then venture out into the world in which we'll be exposed to so many different impressions so many different ideas so many different influences if we have first tuned in and brought all the different systems of our being into a state of coherence balance flow and togetherness then we're setting ourselves up to able to meet the day that much more skillfully that much more smoothly and yoga classically is described as karamasu koshalam which means skillfulness in the things that we do it's also described as samatvam which means evenness balance so being practical yoga says let's do what we can to invite balance and steadiness so we can meet the day with greater skillfulness in order to do that let's give our awareness something to focus on or towards something that we can invite all the powers of our awareness to gather around so when we're doing yorgasana for example we may be focusing on balancing the body in physical space we may use some techniques of bandha the invisible support bandage that helps energy flow smoothly through all our joints that helps connect us more to the rich abundant support of the earth beneath us and we may use drishti we may focus on particular points in the body we may use internal visualization we may focus on the breath but we will have some one point or some combination of points that give us as it were this support this alambana and when we spend a little bit of time working with this meditative support there's the idea that we we teach our system we attune our system to that rich accord of actually functioning as a unit and then as we go into the world if we feel if we start to get spread thin if we start to get disintegrated we will notice that much more easily because we've got that reference of what it feels like to be in that sthirasukam asanam integrated balanced medistate and then maybe before we have a meal we might take a minute or two maybe i'll just watch the breath i'll breathe deep down into the diaphragm i'll connect down to the center of the earth i'll feel myself grounded i'll remember ah yes steady easefulness is a capacity i carry within me and i invite a bit more and then maybe when i get back after my day's work i may return and once more tune in and so again and again can we keep cultivating inviting the medistate and we'll speak more about this next time thank you for tuning in today and i very much look forward to continuing see you next time


Rachel H
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much James. A beautiful talk. So alive and inspiring.  I Love to listen to you chanting the beautiful sutra's. The way you describe  Sthira Sukham asana  takes me to awareness  of the description one of my yoga teacher's  wiuod guide us with in every asana and throughout the practice. " Evenness of touch to the ground and the space around you ." After several minutes of gentle focused concentration of embodying this in practice it would lead to evenness of touch and space on the inside too. ( facilitating the ease and movement of the breath and prana ). It was really effective and direct . Amazing. Thank you.  Om Santih.  Namaste . 
James Boag
Thank you for your encouraging feedback Rachel, great to hear how the content of the talk connects to your own ongoing practice and exploration. Thanks for sharing your experience of attentive āsana practice bridging the internal and external.
Kate M
An inspiring talk that invites us to find that place of re-integration on an ongoing basis. The "work" is never done! Thank you, James!

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